Bhubaneswar: Chennaiyin FC rallied from a goal down to beat NorthEast United FC 2-1 in the fourth quarter-final match of the Super Cup football tournament at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.
The victory sets up Chennaiyin for a semi-final clash against ATK on April 10. Rowllin Borges put NorthEast in front just nine minutes into the match. But Mailson Alves equalised in the 33rd minute before Anirudh Thapa made it 2-1 for Chennaiyin with a brilliant solo goal in the 40th minute.
NorthEast had the better of the early exchanges and Lalthathanga Khawlhring tested Karanjit Singh with a shot from outside the box, forcing the Chennaiyin goalkeeper to make a save and clear the danger in exchange for a corner.
The Highlanders, however, made full use of the set-piece to perfection. The corner was played short for Khawlhring, who found Panagiotis Triadis inside the Chennaiyin box with an inch-perfect pass.
The winger cut the ball back for a host of NorthEast players arriving inside the six-yard box. Rowllin Borges made sure he tapped the ball in to make it 1-0 up for NorthEast United. Chennaiyin’s build-up lacked any conviction in the first 30 minutes and Jeje Lalpekhlua cut an isolated figure in the attacking third. After the opening goal, chances were few and far between for both sides.
The next big goal threat came in the 33rd minute, and it resulted in Chennaiyin’s equaliser. Anirudh Thapa received the ball after another corner and put in a teasing ball inside the Highlanders’ box. Mailson Alves outjumped everyone and planted a powerful header past a helpless Gurmeet in the NorthEast goal.
The goal spurred Chennaiyin on, as the two-time Indian Super League champions controlled the match thereafter. Thapa was Chennaiyin’s standout player on the pitch by far and was running the show from the middle of the park. Seven minutes after providing the assist for Alves, the India international was at the thick of things yet again.
The 21-year-old nicked the ball off Khawlhring in the opposition half, raced into the box and fired a low shot across Gurmeet to give Chennaiyin the advantage. The Highlanders could have drawn level seconds before the half time whistle when Eli Sabia’s scuffed clearance fell kindly for Khawlhring. The youngster should have hit the target from eight yards out but rushed his effort and sent it wide.